BT backtracks on 21CN broadband speeds

BT has backtracked on claims that half the country will receive speeds of 12Mb/sec or greater on its new 21CN network.

Whilst briefing journalists at its Gatwick headquarters last month, BT Wholesale’s managing director of products and strategy, Cameron Rejali, told us that “We think 50% of lines will have 12Mb/sec or better,” under 21CN.

But PC Pro subsequently discovered that just weeks before, BT Wholesale had told ISPs that its lab tests revealed 50% of households would only be expected to achieve speeds of at least 6.3-9.3Mb/sec. The figures were published on the BT Wholesale website, from a meeting held with ISPs on 13 February.

When PC Pro first asked BT why there was such a large discrepancy between what the company had told ISPs and what Rejali had told journalists, a spokesperson told us the data on the website was old.

However, BT has this week admitted to PC Pro that the figures are indeed the latest available data and has attempted to distance itself from Rejali’s earlier remarks.

“I can confirm that the figure which states that 50% of UK households can expect to achieve speeds of 6.3-9.3Mb/sec is the latest lab trial data,” a spokesperson told us. “However, it is very difficult to predict the actual speeds that customers will receive once WBC [BT Wholesale Broadband Connect] is rolled out on a nationwide scale.

“Testing and trialling continues and estimates of line rates and coverage may change. For example, customers that today take the DSL Max service (up to 8Mb/sec) are receiving higher line speeds than were predicted during the DSL Max trial, hence Cameron’s comments that 50% of UK households could well achieve higher speeds than the current lab trial data indicates.”

When we pressed the spokesperson on what figure BT thinks is now the most reliable indicator of what customers are likely to receive, she said “we should go with the 6.3-9.3Mb/sec figure”.

ISPs who have been working closely with BT on the 21CN trials have told PC Pro that they too don’t expect most customers to achieve anything close to the headline speeds. “Not many are going to get anywhere near 24Mb/sec,” James Blessing, chief operating officer of Entanet told us.

“If you’re getting above four meg [currently] you’ll see an increase. If you’re getting below four meg, some people actually get a slight decrease.”

Those views are echoed by, which has researched the speeds customers can expect using ADSL2+ on BT’s new network. “Those who go fast now are going to go even faster,” says site editor, Andrew Ferguson. “Those on 1-1.5Mb/sec are going to see perhaps half a meg extra.”


% of UK households – Expected to achieve speeds of at least

(Max) 12.3-16.3Mb/sec
10% 12.1-16.2Mb/sec
25% 10.9-14.7Mb/sec
50% 6.3-9.3Mb/sec
75% 3.3-5.0Mb/sec

Source: PC PRO

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